Google Assistant has been updated with several quality of life improvements. In addition to new voice commands for retrieving and sharing photos, and for updating notes and lists, the platform has some tweaks to help podcast listeners.
The voice AI can now respond to requests for specific podcast topics. Google Assistant can recognize when it is asked for podcasts about subjects such as holiday cooking or New Year’s resolutions. The feature is rolling out for English language users on Google Assistant-enabled devices worldwide.
In testing this new feature on a Google Home (no screen) smart speaker, our experience was one of mixed satisfaction. We started with this request: “Hey Google, find podcasts about dog training.” The Google Assistant replied that several programs had been located, and began playing one: Angel Dog Training. We asked for the episode number; it was “episode zero” according to Google. When we asked for information about the podcast, Google replied with general knowledge about how to ask for podcasts. (#Fail). When we requested “Skip,” Google did not skip to the next podcast (as does when playing our daily news lineup), but did skip to the next episode of Angel Dog Training.
We then asked Google to list (not “find”) podcasts about dog training. The device recited a list in a long run-on sentence that contained no inflection, but did (bafflingly) contain repetition of the word “source.” This part of the test was incomprehensible to us, but the whole experiment might work better on a Google Nest Hub, the company’s screen device.
Notwithstanding our middling test results, his feature is reflects how podcasts have become more important to Google. The company added support for podcasts to appear in search results earlier this year, and later enacted a system to play episodes that appear in searches.